I have always had a strange relationship with NOLA, love/hate or better yet hate/love.

Before Katrina , I had no intention of staying here, this sweaty. ill kept by-water drained swamp was not my home.

But NOLA is a strange lady, she annoys you, abuses you, offers you the bare minimum that a relationship needs to survive, and yet is some way you… need her.

So on this the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I have decided to tell the full unabridged Katrina story as seen through my eyes.

It is not for the easily offended, and if you don’t want to know where I’ve been, I suggest you click away now..

For while this is, ultimately a story of triumph, and how tragedy can turn into triumph, it is also a story of sex, sin, anger and a depression so deep it seemed as though death was the only tenable alternative.

This… is my Katrina story…

The air was strange that evening, it was actually comfortable here in New Orleans as I walked down Prytania waiting for the time to evacuate to Memphis for a couple of days.

I recall the air was strangely still, even the cicada bugs had ceased their buzzing, although I was thankful for that.

I contemplated just not going, not evacuating.. this could be my big break. But in the end, I did get in the car with the man whom I was in some sense of the word married to on our way to pick up Luz, and drive the long contra-flow toward Memphis, Tn.

We drove to mid city to pick up Luz, a sweet, middle-aged Puerto Rican woman, a transplant to NOLA long ago from Brooklyn.

As we approached her house, in the gleaming moonlight, you could tell that she had just had it painted and it shone white in the moon.

An insurance adjuster was going to come to her house the next day, or as soon after as he could  after the storm and then she would get her insurance policy reinstated.

But for now, her two-story home, gleamed in the moonlight like a visage from an era past, balcony intact, waiting for someone to walk out on them to view a parade or a second line.

I would never see that house again, nor would Luz. It was knocked down in Katrina’s winds, rested against the house next door to it, like an aging beauty, looking for comfort in the arms of an old friend.

But as we drove away, Todd, myself, Luz and her two grandchildren, none of us knew how much different our lives would be after this storm had passed, how much we would lose, and how much we would gain.

After hours, and hours spent in Contra-Flow traffic to Memphis, we finally arrived.

A small, cheap hotel on the outskirts of the city, which became more like a refugee camp for Katrina evacuees than a hotel.

There were clothes hanging on the railings to dry in front of the rooms, kids were running around and everyone was busy talking about the storm.

As Katrina made landfall, we watched it on the screens of televisions from room to room, there really wasn’t too much personal space.

It seemed like for a time, this thing might actually pass by, and not do too much damage, or so we thought.

Then word of levee breaches, first in one area, then another, the news did not seem to be getting any better.

As hopes for the city to be spared horrific flooding and damage faded, so did my hopes of going back to New Orleans.

And the news was bad indeed.

However, the news people were spreading amongst themselves was even worse.

Looting, rampant looting, rioting, gunshots and flooding everywhere.

And the bad thing, no one could make a cell phone call, no one could get through to anyone.

My cell phone would not make a call out, kept getting a recording that all circuits were busy..

Todd was angry, he wanted to be able to go back..

And then he decided the city was screwed and he was going to go back to Boston, we were going to go back to Boston.

Luz asked us if we could drop her off in Brooklyn on the way to Boston, which was not a big deal.

But everything, was a big deal.

I had never liked New Orleans, but I hadn’t wanted to say goodbye this way..

All of my stuff was  still there.

I had only intended to be gone for a couple of days, and had packed some shorts, some shirts, boxers and flip flops..

Hardly a wardrobe for Boston in the fall.

So, I started making phone calls as I could to friends in Boston, my old job with Verizon was among the first.

And although I could not go back to my old position as Manager, I was offered the position of Sales Manager, which was a very generous, gracious offer I accepted, so at least I would not be going back to nothing.

However, as things in Boston began to shape up, things in Memphis were beginning to unravel.

Money was becoming short, and we still could not get any money out of our Whitney Bank account as their servers were all down with the flooded city.

Todd was becoming disenchanted with the idea of driving in a Honda wagon from Memphis to Brooklyn with a grandmother and two grandbabies and was trying to figure out a way to leave Luz in Memphis to forge her own way home.

Something I was strongly against, and threatened that if she went, I went and since I had the cash from my payroll, I was a necessary commodity in this journey.

And so, we made plans, gathered provisions as we could and started the long drive back to Boston from Memphis..

Myself, Todd, Luz and her two grand babies, whose names escape me.

Man, they are teenagers now, strange, we spent all that time in a car together and now I cannot even recall their names.

As we drove that long drive to Boston, listening to radio along the way it was an eye opening experience.

People talking about how they ought to just let New Orleans flood and be done with it, about a city and a culture they knew nothing about and it made my heart ache.

I realized that although NOLA and I had a horrible, dysfunctional relationship, we had survived hell together, and in her own way, she helped me survive much more.

And how dare these bastards talk about her is such a manner, scarred, and broken, and incredibly flawed though she was, there was an incredible charm to this city and no one was going to entertain the thought of not coming to her aid.

This I spoke as I was driving at a fast clip back to Boston, and I thought safety..

But that is a story for another chapter.

So, what has happened in the ten years since Katrina?

Well, although my relationship was tumultuous before Katrina, an evacuation without a plan and return to Boston pretty much is a stress test it couldn’t bear. I moved out of the apartment we shared on April 1, 2006 and started a path towards healing.

God, has called me into a ministry to help people who want to be free of homosexuality to share with them His simple message of reconciliation and love.

I have a gorgeous, loving wife, of six years now and usually it is pretty good.

Although I can be an ass to live with, as I have been told before.

I have two beautiful children, a boy Jake, and a girl India.. She is my heart, and he is a little me..

And, I am back living in New Orleans, and I absolutely love her.

I think that this is something Todd would laugh at the most, me living in New Orleans, and loving it.

Ten years ago, Katrina took away my security, my sanity and my sense of self sufficiency.

Ten years ago, a storm made landfall and we all held our collective breaths.

In my lifetime, I have lived through earthquakes, riots, tropical storms, blizzards. you name it, I’ve seen it.

But I have ever seen anything absolutely demolish a soul, like a hurricane.

However, for everything Katrina took from me, God gave me that much, and tenfold back.

And that, makes me a fortunate, blessed man indeed.

All things considered.


Written by James Berman

Who is James, or rather who was James and who is James becoming? This is a question that I am attempting to answer myself, and I guess I have been trying to answer for as long as I can recall. I, am Chronically Broken, and yet perfectly arranged. Does that make any sense to you? I guess what I am trying to get at is that although I am altogether similar to who I was and always have been, I am strangely dissimilar from anyone I have ever known myself to be. Much like the roads in New Orleans, the city that has become my home I am constantly under construction. And that is the reason for this site, to chronicle this rebirth, this renewal. To speak to those who are in desperate need of some renovation of all the amazing potential and possibilities.

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